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HomeHealth A-Z Acid Reflux
Acid Reflux
Acid Reflux GERD
Smoking and drinking alcohol are two factors that increase your risk of developing symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Acid Reflux

(AS-id REE-fluhks)

Definition of Acid Reflux

Acid Reflux is a disease that causes heartburn when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle relaxes and acid from the stomach flows up into the esophagus.

Description of Acid Reflux

This disease is commonly referred to as GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease as well as acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach creeps up and irritates or burns the esophagus. The stomach liquid can inflame the esophageal lining and cause damage although this does not occur in most patients. The regurgitated stomach liquid usually contains acid and pepsin. GERD or acid reflux is chronic and once you have it then you can anticipate having it for the rest of your life.

Causes and Risk Factors of Acid Reflux

There are several causes of acid reflux and any one of them may cause acid reflux in the same individual at different times. Or only one of the causes may affect a specific person. It is a complex condition and difficult to determine exactly what causes are in play.

The following factors that cause acid reflux are a result of the body parts not functioning properly. These include hiatal hernias, esophageal contractions, the lower esophageal sphincter, and emptying of the stomach.

There are quite a few risk factors that increase the risk of GERD or acid reflux. These are being overweight, smoking, alcohol consumption, being pregnant, eating specific foods, age, certain medications, peptic ulcer, hiatal hernia, and gastroparesis.

It is relatively easy to control some of the risk factors for acid reflux like avoiding acid causing foods, losing weight, not drinking alcohol or smoking, and generally taking care of one’s self. Some of the risk factors like pregnancy aren’t necessary to avoid just for the sake of avoiding acid reflux because it usually goes away after the baby is born. Medical conditions like a peptic ulcer, hiatal hernia, and gastroparesis are risk factors for acid reflux and can’t necessarily be avoided either although a healthy lifestyle will reduce their occurrence.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

There are many different acid reflux symptoms and sufferers may experience one, several, or many of the symptoms.

A burning feeling just behind the sternum occurs frequently after a meal and might last for hours or just a few minutes.

Another symptom is a burning taste or a sour taste in the mouth.

  • Chronic coughing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Burping
  • Loss of voice
  • Hoarseness
  • Babies spit up or vomit after almost every meal.

The symptoms of acid reflux are frequently interpreted as a heart attack. Sometimes, an individual with a history of acid reflux will mistake real heart attack symptoms for acid reflux. Individuals should never just assume symptoms are acid reflux and not heart attack symptoms as this may delay treatment.

Diagnosis of Acid Reflux

If you have chronic heartburn then you need to visit your doctor for a series of tests to determine if you have acid reflux or GERD. There are several tests doctors use to diagnose GERD and acid reflux.

One test used to diagnose GERD is the barium X ray. This test works because it shows whether the digestive tract has any abnormalities or not. The patient avoids drinking or eating anything after midnight before the test. Then, at the hospital the patient will drink a barium liquid that coats the stomach and digestive tract. Afterwards, X rays are taken and the barium in the digestive tract will make any irregularities obvious. Erosions, strictures, and hiatal hernias are just some of the abnormalities that may be seen during a barium X Ray.

Endoscopy is another diagnostic test used to determine if a patient is suffering from acid reflux. This camera mounted on a long, thin tube is inserted into the esophagus to look for suspicious tissues or other problems. A sample may be taken of anything that looks strange.

Esophageal Manometry also diagnoses acid reflux by testing the esophageal body and lower esophageal sphincter.

The Bernstein test creates heartburn symptoms and is used with other acid reflux tests.

PH Monitor Examination is used as well and includes a small plastic tube being inserted into the esophagus to measure the amount of acid.

There are quite a few other diagnostic tools to see if a patient is suffering from acid reflux or not. However, those discussed above are some of the more popular diagnostic exams and procedures utilized by medical professionals trying to diagnose acid reflux.

Treatment of Acid Reflux

There are many treatment options for acid reflux and GERD sufferers. Some of the most popular forms of treatment will be discussed to show the wide variety of options sufferers have.

The first treatment option for mild heartburn and acid reflux sufferers is antacids. However, these over the counter pills don’t usually help much for GERD sufferers and should not be used if severe.

Prokinetic agents are another treatment option for GERD sufferers. This medicine works to empty the stomach so it does not over fill. These pills help increase pressure on the esophageal sphincter.

Proton pump inhibitors are yet another treatment option. This medicine works on the stomach wall to inhibit acid production. When there is less acid it can’t back up in the esophagus as much and cause problems.

Acid suppressants are also used for GERD sufferers. This treatment reduces acid production as well.

Prevention of Acid Reflux

Preventing acid reflux and GERD is desirable for those who suffer from it. However, GERD may not be able to be prevented 100% although it may be reduced significantly in occurrence and irritation. One method of prevention is avoiding certain foods. These include chocolate, spearmint, caffeine, peppermint, coffee, carbonated drinks and alcohol. A low fat diet is important for a healthy lifestyle and although high fat foods may not cause GERD, they should be avoided in order to maintain a low weight. Acidic fruits and vegetables should be avoided while all other fruits and vegetables are consumed. Whole grains and protein should also be increased in the diet.

External Resources

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

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